All creatures great and small
'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves', authored by Karen Joy Fowler, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014. The narrator is a girl, deeply affected and scarred by the loss of her twin sister, Fern, who was separated from her in childhood. Writes Pallavi Singh.chandigarh Updated: Nov 07, 2014 12:50 IST
'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves', authored by Karen Joy Fowler, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014. The narrator is a girl, deeply affected and scarred by the loss of her twin sister, Fern, who was separated from her in childhood. A little into the book and the writer discloses the startling fact that Fern was a chimpanzee, brought up along with the rest of the children as a scientific experiment by the parents who were psychologists and of course, animal lovers.
The premise of the story got me thinking that there are two kinds of people in this world. Those that simply love animals and those that don't or are indifferent to them. The animal lovers feel a deep kinship with animals in general and many are also staunch vegans as they cannot imagine making a meal of their 'friends or brethren'. They allow their pets a free run of their homes. The dog lover will rush back from work to feed, walk or play with his dog, while others just keep them in kennels or outhouses to watch their homes and as a deterrent to trespassers.
My sister's son in the US is besotted with animals and has a veritable menagerie that included a snake, a grasshopper, a monitor lizard along with a dog named Shanti. I was amazed to see the seven-year-old boy's discipline. He knew he was solely responsible for the pets and would clean their cages, feed them and talk to them, all on his own. The death of his python was traumatic for him and he was inconsolable for days!
Once at a dinner at a young couple's place, we had a long, fond conversation about Mia and Ruth.
They proudly extolled their virtues calling them independent-minded, well-behaved and great company. We were surprised when they decided to introduce them and in bounded a pair of boisterous, beautiful Golden Retrievers who, we were told indulgently, had chewed up all the upholstery and scratched every bed, chair and door in the house!
Animals are the gentlest and most vulnerable of all creatures, often at the mercy of Man and his whims. They never attack unless provoked and are happy to be left alone to mind their own business. They hunt only when hungry, and procreate to perpetuate their race as a matter of routine. It is Man who is greedy, desires the forbidden, encroaches upon their habitat and is capable of terrible cruelty towards the mute, defenceless beasts. We skin lizards, snakes and crocodiles with impunity, to adorn ourselves with belts and bags, mercilessly slaughter elephants and rhinos, gouge out their tusks and horns to concoct dubious aphrodisiacs and show no qualms in destroying entire forests for monetary benefit, thus making the poor animals bereft of their natural environment.
It is with a chill that I remember Oliver Goldsmith's thought-provoking poem, 'An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog', which he concludes with:
'Soon a wonder came to light,
The man recovered of the bite
The dog it was that died.'